Now that I’ve spent time re-doing Fellgernon Bit, I thought it’d be a good time my experience on setting up a socially-connected blog.
First of all, you need to choose a blog platform. There are some around like Blogger and WordPress that are widely used and were some of the first platforms. In my case though, I really like how easy http://www.tumblr.com/ is to use.
Once you register and have the default blog, go to the customize menu from the Tumblr dashboard and browse the Free Themes. I ended up choosing the Simple Things theme because I liked the way it looks and it already included some things I wanted like the Google+ button, Facebook and Twitter sharing. This theme also has several easy options so you can easily link your blog to Google Analytics.
One of the very nice gadgets this theme has (as other Tumblr themes) is an easy to customize Disqus account. What is this? Basically, it’s a system for comments. If the visitor registers at Disqus they can choose to share their comments via the main social networks, which is something that I liked. An alternative is the Facebook Social Plugin, but I don’t like because only facebook-users can comment. I know this sounds strange to many of you, but I don’t think that everyone has a fb account and with newer alternatives I believe they’ll lose some of their current userbase. Anyhow, with Disqus visitors can use their Twitter, Fb, Google, OpenId, … accounts to identify themselves and they can easily have their comments appear in the social networks.
One of the cool things Disqus offers is an easy to install widget where visitors can see the top commenters, recent comments, and most discussed threads (or only of the three). To set it up, go to the Admin window and then go to the Tools tab and click on Code.
As you might have noticed, you will have to modify the html file from your theme if you want to connect it and/or add widgets. Don’t be afraid and just follow the simple instructions all these widgets give you.
Once you have your comment system set up, you might be interested in adding more social networks for your visitors to share your posts on. That’s where ShareThis becomes quite handy. Note that ShareThis allows you to add Twitter, Fb, Google+ so even if the theme you chose doesn’t come socially-connected you can do it through ShareThis. In my case, I only added the ShareThis button which pretty much allows visitors to use the whole system of social networks.
This theme (and other Tumblr themes) allow you to link the RSS feed of your blog with FeedBurner which definitely makes your RSS feed look nicer and easy to subscribe to with tools like Google Reader.
Another cool widget to add to your blog is a Tag Cloud. This is probably the easiest widget to add and this excellent post describes all the steps you will want to follow. The only difficult part can be choosing where to add the code in the html file. In my case, I simply looked for the RSS tag and added it below. The div html tags can be useful when you are adding widgets.
To top your blog off, a must-have widget is LinkWithin. Basically, it adds 3-5 links to older posts from your blog which definitely helps keep your older posts in the loop. Otherwise they are simply lost in the eternity of the archive.
Finally, don’t forget to change the settings of your blog from the Tumblr dashboard. You can make so every new post is automatically posted on your Twitter and Fb accounts (I hope they add Google+ soon).
This might all seem like a lot of work, but it’s much quicker to do if you know what you are looking for. And I hope that it’ll be useful to you.